Michigan high court dismisses complaint about delayed voting district maps

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The Michigan Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the timeline for redrawing the state's voting maps Thursday.

But the high court also said it would issue emergency rules regarding the process plaintiffs must follow to challenge the constitutional amendment that created Michigan's Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. 

The high court said it wasn't convinced it should, at this time, weigh in on the timeline for completion of the maps for Congress, the state House and state Senate — the drawing of which is scheduled to continue past Friday's constitutional deadline and into at least early October. 

Serial plaintiff Robert Davis had challenged the commission's timeline and asked the court to order the commission to complete the maps on time. But the redistricting commission, which was delayed months by late census data, had only completed its first draft of state Senate districts as of Wednesday. 

"...Because plaintiff's claim rests on 'contingent future events that may not occur as anticipated, or indeed may not occur at all,' plaintiff's claim is not yet ripe," Justice Brian Zahra said in a concurring statement.

Davis did not seem put off by the Supreme Court's decision Thursday.

"The Supreme Court's decision today makes it very clear that once the redistricting commission misses the Sept. 17 deadline, there will be an established procedure in place for those plans to be challenged because they are clear constitutionally deficient," Davis said in a statement.

Davis' request was similar to one the redistricting commission itself made this summer, asking the Supreme Court to alter the constitutional deadlines because of the census data delay. At that time, the high court declined the request because there was not yet a violation of the deadlines.

Justice Elizabeth Clement said in Thursday's decision that justices "owe it to the public" to come up with rules on how to approach the high court for a decision in the matter. 

Clement dissented from the majority on Davis' request, however, saying she would have granted the relief requested by Davis, who said he is considering a run for Congress and would be affected by the delay. 

"By constitutionalizing these procedures — including these deadlines — the voters have imposed upon the commission a clear duty to comply with them" and given the high court the authority to direct the commission to do its duty, Clement wrote in a statement joined by Justice David Viviano. 

"I, therefore, believe we owe it to the voters who ratified this proposal to give them everything to which they are entitled," Clement wrote. "That includes proposed maps by Sept. 17 and adopted maps by Nov. 1."

The commission's current schedule requires draft maps to be finished by early October, followed by about a month and a half of public hearings, then 45 days of public comment starting Nov. 14.

 The commission hopes to take a final vote on the maps by the end of December — about two months after the state Constitution requires the maps to be complete.  

eleblanc@detroitnews.com